Trump Incorrectly Quotes James Clapper to Falsely Claim F.B.I. Spied on Campaign

Trump Incorrectly Quotes James Clapper to Falsely Claim F.B.I. Spied on Campaign

Fact Check of the Day

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Mr. Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said he “should be happy that the F.B.I. was spying on his campaign.” Mr. Clapper did not say that.

THE FACTS

False.

Mr. Trump is referring to comments by James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence under former President Barack Obama, that were made on “The View” on Tuesday. But Mr. Clapper never said what Mr. Trump claimed he did. In fact, he said the opposite.

Here’s the exchange:

Joy Behar: “So I ask you, was the F.B.I. spying on Trump’s campaign?”

Mr. Clapper: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence, which is what they do.”

Ms. Behar: “Well, why doesn’t he like that? He should be happy.”

Mr. Clapper: “He should be. I mean, Russia — it’s one of the reasons I wrote my book, was the threat Russia poses because they are bent on undermining our system. And that’s what they did, and had a lot of success during the course of the election.”

In other words, Mr. Clapper used the word “spy” to describe intelligence gathering on Russian efforts to influence the election. He explicitly denied that the F.B.I. “spied” on Mr. Trump’s campaign.

There is no evidence that the intelligence agents planted an informant inside Mr. Trump’s campaign to spy on him for political purposes.

As The New York Times has reported, “F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.”

The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, did not secretly infiltrate the Trump campaign. He met with Trump campaign aides who were under scrutiny for their links to Russia.

Mr. Clapper described the use of this informant as “a fairly benign tool” that the F.B.I. employs “all the time.”

Source: The View, Twitter, The New York Times

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to the Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact.@ylindaqiu

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